A journey to San Francisco to become no less than Me. (BLOG REBOOT: Former site of Hairy Legs.)

I can’t believe everything that’s happened so far.  I haven’t had time really for blogging, vlogging or anything under that umbrella, because I’ve been wildly sick, suffering from a potentially slipped disc, and also staying in a place where I really have no internet access. HOWEVER, you all deserve to know that everything on the whole is well and good.

First order of business:  I am no longer couch surfing.  I got into Lark Inn!!!

It’s terrible.

Naw, just kidding. It’s actually pretty okay.  There are three hot, delicious meals every day, free laundry machines, showers, and of course, a warm (if noisy) place to sleep.  The hoodrat culture there is a little jarring after growing up in a place where the slums are mainly populated with hicks, skinheads and meth addicts; there’s a pretty intensive culture shock.  I think I’m one of about four or five white kids there, mixed in with a vast rainbow of other ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and cultural heritages.  The one thing everyone has in common- even the flaming gay kids- is that they’re all unquestionably tough as nails.  There are some truly incredible individuals surviving in there.  It’s kind of neat to exposed to such a melting pot.  I guess I’m adapting pretty okay, cause nobody’s giving me any shit.

That said, it’s a bad idea to leave any of your stuff lying around because it seems the walls are made of sticky fingers.  Being a forgetful sort of person, this has bit me in the ass a couple times already.  Between last night and this morning, my favorite yellow sunglasses went missing from my bedside, and one person stole my phone a couple days ago (though they owned up to it pretty quickly.)  Nevertheless I’m adapting.

Wait- I left my shampoo and toothbrush in the shower this morning.  DAMMIT.  (God have mercy on the person that decides it’s a good idea to use my toothbrush, I’ve got a pretty nasty fever.)

Speaking of showers and personal space, they put me in the male dorms, for which I am forever grateful, but it’s a little weird to have to shower in the men’s room.  Thank god there are stalls, but I get weirded out by the thought that someone could, at a whim, very easily pull the curtain aside and see my alternative anatomy in all its glory.  If there wasn’t the threat of being kicked out for harassing fellow clients, I’d be a little more uneasy.  Apparently there are a few transphobic clients being housed there, and it gives me the chills to think how easily and quickly something could go wrong in that bathroom.

Sleeping in the same dorm with eight other men is a new experience, too.  Apparently they stuck me in the bed right next to the biggest trouble maker.  BUT, all the dorms are merely divided by walls that don’t reach the ceiling by three feet, so all I’d have to do is make a massive ruckus and I’d have the staff on my dorm in an instant, so I’m comforted by that.

Also too, I’m not the only trans guy here.  There’s one other (possibly more who aren’t obvious) and somehow that makes me feel safer, even though he’s much younger than me.  I get the feeling that he’s got my back should things go wrong.

The roughest thing, honestly, has been the beds.  I mentioned that I might have a slipped disc, and my clinic was supposed to see me about it Monday, but then they pushed me back another week.  The foam mattresses, when compressed by weight, are paper thin, and I honestly wouldn’t have room to complain if my back weren’t so damaged that I can barely tie my shoes!  I wake up every morning feeling ragged and barely able to move, and there aren’t even any pillows to work around the lack of back support.  Luckily, my sweetie bought me a pillow, so last night wasn’t as tough.

Also waking up around 5am with my usual hacking cough and near-asthma attack has been miserable, especially coming down from this cold.  I’ve been trying not to wake up the whole planet with my explosive coughing fits but I’m not sure I’m doing too well, and I’m afraid everyone in my dorm is probably going to destroy me if the pattern keeps up.

There are a lot of strange and arbitrary rules here, but overall the staff has been great and they’ve linked me in with some decent resources.  I honestly found most of them before I moved in, but whatever.  Apparently I won’t get a social worker for a few weeks, but that gives me a little while to catch my breath and see what I can do on my own.

IN OTHER NEWS:

– My name/gender change paperwork is under way.  I’d already have my physician signature for the court order of gender change if my doctor hadn’t called in sick last Friday.  He only shows up Fridays and apparently he won’t be in this Friday either, so that blows, but I’ll be swinging by the clinic this afternoon to see if administration will work with me.  The paperwork process is already going to take long enough (6+ weeks!) without having to wait two more weeks just for a signature.

– I guess LYRIC here in the Castro might be able to work with me on getting an internship to generate income without having to have my I.D. first, so that’s a good thing.  I can’t do the paperwork to start my business (or even get the proper training for it, really!) without an I.D., and you really can’t survive here without at least a little cash, so it looks like my best option.  Besides, it’s doing volunteer work, which is really where I’m at home, I GUESS.  Food banking, here I come, again.   D:

– I’m going on testosterone THIS FRIDAY!!!  😀 I’ve decided I want to find some way to get the tattoo I’ve been wanting for eight years to commemorate the first day I broke my skin to get the right hormones in my body.  Not sure where I can go where they use clean needles and ALSO don’t charge an arm and a leg, but I’ll work something out.  If worst comes to worst, I WON’T get it- as much HIV as there is going around here, I’m valuing my health more than anything.  Clean blood is golden around here.

– OH!  This is the strangest thing of all.

The other day, one of the clients walked in to Lark-Inn, saying they just got back from the America’s Got Talent auditions.  Apparently, they were holding them at Civic Center, a good five blocks from where I was staying.  These sorts of shows really aren’t my thing, but I figured, why the hell not?  I’ve got a good voice, a hell of a story, and an interesting presentation.  Why shouldn’t they want me?  At least, it might be a way off the streets.

So, I went and auditioned.  At first I was nervous because I’d been sick for three days already so my throat was kinda rough, but I’ve got practice pushing through that to create richer tones, so I wasn’t too worried; I knew my throat would suffer for it and be rough by evening, but it would be worth it.

My little gimmick is presenting as male, and then singing classic diva tunes.  At first, I was going to do my rendition of Barbra Streisand’s “Gotta Move” from her titular feature “Color Me Barbra”, but then around noon, I heard that Whitney Houston had passed.  The news shook me so much that I instantly chose to switch to my favorite song of hers, “There Is Music In You” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Apparently it was a good choice.  After waiting in the audition warm-up auditorium with literally hundreds of people for four hours, watching a vast array of talents (and some crazy people), I was called up with the other a capella singers in my number set to perform.  I’m lucky I scribbled those reminder notes on my palms because my mind blanked on the lyrics more than once, and by the end of the final chorus my hands were tingling like fire and my vision was blacking.  Luckily I kept my voice steady and ended on not too shoddy a final note.  I was happy with the acoustics and poured everything I had into the stretched, full notes, opening my chest into Whitney’s rich tones.  The room echoed and filled (I almost hurt my own ears!) and I didn’t know if I was just biased, but I was happy to think that I sounded better than the other auditionists in my group who’d gone before me.

I’ve been struggling with being stuck firmly in the “Super Soprano” range (as my music teacher called it) for years, stretching my voice as low as it would go, urging it into baritone ranges so that at least I could fake an alto tone, but lately I’ve finally embraced that this is what I was born with- more or less the ability to parrot the classic diva songs.  Soon, when I go on testosterone, I’ll lose that forever, and it’s been strange to find that I’ll miss it more than I realized.  But for now, I hope it will do me well.

After I wrapped up  my audition, I took off for Larkin, as I was cold, tired, and ready for dinner, but halfway back (my phone exploding during a breathless call home), the producers called, saying they needed me back!

I screamed that I’d be back in five minutes and took off running back to the center.  Arriving breathlessly on the fourth floor, I apologized for leaving so quickly.  They wanted to do a more in-depth interview with me, so I explained my background, that I was staying at the shelter, that I wanted to maybe use this opportunity to get off the streets and make a better life for myself, and to challenge the world’s perception of gender.  I also told them I’d be going on hormone therapy later this week and throughout the year, my voice would be dropping.  They seemed genuinely fascinated.

“You said you hope to maintain control over your voice as it drops.  Can you demonstrate your soprano voice for us again, with just thirty seeconds of another song?”

I was floored- I got to sing my Barbra number, too!  I’m not so sure how well I did with that complicated bit at the end of the first verse, but I hope it was impressive enough for them to call me back.  They said they weren’t making decisions today, but I’d know within two weeks whether I made the cut or not. I thanked them and left.

On the way out, I asked the escort who’d called me back up if everyone got called back to do the in-depth interview and sing a second time.  He raised his eyebrows pointedly and said I was the only one in my group who had been called back.

“Wow,” I said. “This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened, you know.  I was in this talent show once, and I thought I did terrible, so I just left as soon as I was done performing and went for tacos.  Turned out later I won the Judge’s Choice award and wasn’t there to accept it.”

He shook his head. “You shouldn’t be so quick to leave auditions like this.  Clearly you’ve got talent.  Give yourself more credit.”

I left feeling a little starstruck.  I’d always poured so much energy into things like drawing, costuming and the visual arts that I’d never considered I might have a chance at singing.  It just seemed like such a fiercely competitive field, and talent at drawing is so much more rare (and the crowd is so much nicer!), so I stuck with art.  I’ve never poured any of my resources into lessons, choir, glee club or anything like that.  But maybe I have a more natural talent singing than I thought.

Or maybe I’m just excited over nothing.  I won’t really care too much if I don’t get called back; there were people who had clearly been rehearsing their acts for months, maybe years, and hung everything on getting in- every one of those people will be heartbroken at getting cut.  I just showed up out of the blue with a shrug on a whim and gave it my best shot.  I’ve got a million other plans for getting out of this place without them.  But still…

I’ve never considered fame and fortune as an option of mine.  I thought I’d be the costume designer backstage, making the true divas shine, smiling from behind the curtain.  Wouldn’t it be strange, and new, and awesome to be in the spotlight?

And just maybe, from there, maybe like Chaz and those before me, I can change the way the world thinks.

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